Lakers’ Patrick Beverley suspended three games for shove


Los Angeles Lakers starting point guard Patrick Beverley has been suspended for three games for knocking Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton to the court during a game Tuesday, NBA officials have announced.

“The suspension was based in part on Beverley’s history of unsportsmanlike acts,” the NBA said in a news release Thursday night.

Tha Lakers are scheduled to play at San Antonio on Friday night.

Beverly’s shove came with 3:55 left in the game, which Phoenix led at the time 106-96. After Los Angeles guard Austin Reaves went to the floor, Ayton walked over and stood above the Lakers’ guard. Beverly rushed across the floor and knocked Ayton down with his left shoulder and arm.

Beverley was assessed a technical foul and ejected.

Deandre Ayton of the Phoenix Suns is restrained after being pushed to the court Tuesday.

“At the end of the day I’m not mad at him. He’s there protecting his teammate,” Lakers coach Darvin Ham said after the game. “I’m sure he’ll probably go through some type of consequence for that. But at the end of the day that’s who we have to be, is Lakers. We’ve got to be together.”

The Lakers lost 115-105. The 17-time NBA champions are 5-11 this season.

This is Beverley’s 11th NBA season. Before joining the Lakers this year, he played five seasons with the Houston Rockets, four with the Los Angeles Clippers and one with the Minnesota Timberwolves.

He has been suspended for shoving an opponent before. During the Western Conference finals in July 2021, Beverely, then with the Clippers, pushed Phoenix’s Chris Paul in the back with two hands during a stoppage in play. He missed the first game of the next season while with Minnesota.

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Exclusive: Musk’s SpaceX says it can no longer pay for critical satellite services in Ukraine, asks Pentagon to pick up the tab


Since they first started arriving in Ukraine last spring, the Starlink satellite internet terminals made by Elon Musk’s SpaceX have been a vital source of communication for Ukraine’s military, allowing it to fight and stay connected even as cellular phone and internet networks have been destroyed in its war with Russia.

So far roughly 20,000 Starlink satellite units have been donated to Ukraine, with Musk tweeting on Friday the “operation has cost SpaceX $80 million and will exceed $100 million by the end of the year.”

But those charitable contributions could be coming to an end, as SpaceX has warned the Pentagon that it may stop funding the service in Ukraine unless the US military kicks in tens of millions of dollars per month.

Documents obtained by CNN show that last month Musk’s SpaceX sent a letter to the Pentagon saying it can no longer continue to fund the Starlink service as it has. The letter also requested that the Pentagon take over funding for Ukraine’s government and military use of Starlink, which SpaceX claims would cost more than $120 million for the rest of the year and could cost close to $400 million for the next 12 months.

“We are not in a position to further donate terminals to Ukraine, or fund the existing terminals for an indefinite period of time,” SpaceX’s director of government sales wrote to the Pentagon in the September letter.

Among the SpaceX documents sent to the Pentagon and seen by CNN is a previously unreported direct request made to Musk in July by the Ukrainian military’s commanding general, General Valerii Zaluzhniy, for almost 8,000 more Starlink terminals.

In a separate cover letter to the Pentagon, an outside consultant working for SpaceX wrote, “SpaceX faces terribly difficult decisions here. I do not think they have the financial ability to provide any additional terminals or service as requested by General Zaluzhniy.”

The documents, which have not been previously reported, provide a rare breakdown of SpaceX’s own internal numbers on Starlink, detailing the costs and payments associated with the thousands of terminals in Ukraine. They also shed new light on behind-the-scenes negotiations that have provided millions of dollars in communications hardware and services to Ukraine at little cost to Kyiv.

The Pentagon confirmed they received correspondence from SpaceX about the funding of the Starlink satellite communications product in Ukraine, a statement from Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh said Friday.

Earlier in the day, Singh confirmed the Pentagon had been in communication with SpaceX but did not say whether it was over the funding of the Starlink satellite communication product.

Musk on Friday said that in asking the Pentagon to pick up the bill for Starlink in Ukraine, he was following the advice of a Ukrainian diplomat who responded to Musk’s Ukraine peace plan earlier this month, before the letter was sent to the Pentagon, with: “F*** off.”

Ukraine’s ambassador to Germany, Andrij Melnyk, responded earlier this month to Musk’s claimed peace plan for Russia’s Ukraine war by saying: “F*** off is my very diplomatic reply to you @elonmusk.”

“We’re just following his recommendation,” Musk said on Friday, responding to a tweet that referenced CNN’s reporting and Melnyk’s comments, even though the letter SpaceX sent to the Pentagon was sent before the Twitter exchange.

The letters come amid recent reports of wide-ranging Starlink outages as Ukrainian troops attempt to retake ground occupied by Russia in the eastern and southern parts of the country.

Sources familiar with the outages said they suddenly affected the entire frontline as it stood on September 30. “That has affected every effort of the Ukrainians to push past that front,” said one person familiar with the outages who spoke to CNN on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive conversations. “Starlink is the main way units on the battlefield have to communicate.”

This photograph taken on September 25 shows an antenna of the Starlink satellite-based broadband system donated by US tech billionaire Elon Musk in Izyum, Kharkiv region, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

There was no warning to Ukrainian forces, a second person said, adding that now when Ukraine liberates an area a request has to be made for Starlink services to be turned on.

The Financial Times first reported the outages which resulted in a “catastrophic” loss of communication, a senior Ukrainian official said. In a tweet responding to the article, Musk didn’t dispute the outage, saying that what is happening on the battlefield is classified.

SpaceX’s suggestion it will stop funding Starlink also comes amid rising concern in Ukraine over Musk’s allegiance. Musk recently tweeted a controversial peace plan that would have Ukraine give up Crimea and control over the eastern Luhansk and Donetsk regions.

After Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky raised the question of who Musk sides with, he responded that he “still very much support[s] Ukraine” but fears “massive escalation.”

Musk also argued privately last month that Ukraine doesn’t want peace negotiations right now and that if they went along with his plan, “Russia would accept those terms,” according to a person who heard them.

“Ukraine knows that its current government and wartime efforts are totally dependent on Starlink,” the person familiar with the discussions said. “The decision to keep Starlink running or not rests entirely in the hands of one man. That’s Elon Musk. He hasn’t been elected, no one decided to give him that power. He has it because of the technology and the company he built.”

On Tuesday Musk denied a report he has spoken to Putin directly about Ukraine. On Thursday, when a Ukrainian minister tweeted that Starlink is essential to Ukraine’s infrastructure, Musk replied: “You’re most welcome. Glad to support Ukraine.”

More than seven months into the war, it’s hard to overstate the impact Starlink has had in Ukraine. The government in Kyiv, Ukrainian troops as well and NGOs and civilians have relied on the nimble, compact and easy-to-use units created by SpaceX. It’s not only used for voice and electronic communication but to help fly drones and send back video to correct artillery fire.

CNN has seen it used at numerous Ukrainian bases.

Elon Musk pauses and looks down as he speaks during a press conference at SpaceX's Starbase facility near Boca Chica Village in South Texas on February 10, 2022.

“Starlink has been absolutely essential because the Russians have targeted the Ukrainian communications infrastructure,” said Dimitri Alperovitch, co-founder of the Silverado Policy Accelerator, a think tank. “Without that they’d be really operating in the blind in many cases.”

Though Musk has received widespread acclaim and thanks for responding to requests for Starlink service to Ukraine right as the war was starting, in reality, the vast majority of the 20,000 terminals have received full or partial funding from outside sources, including the US government, the UK and Poland, according to the SpaceX letter to the Pentagon.

SpaceX’s request that the US military foot the bill has rankled top brass at the Pentagon, with one senior defense official telling CNN that SpaceX has “the gall to look like heroes” while having others pay so much and now presenting them with a bill for tens of millions per month.

According to the SpaceX figures shared with the Pentagon, about 85% of the 20,000 terminals in Ukraine were paid – or partially paid – for by countries like the US and Poland or other entities. Those entities also paid for about 30% of the internet connectivity, which SpaceX says costs $4,500 each month per unit for the most advanced service. (Over the weekend, Musk tweeted there are around 25,000 terminals in Ukraine.)

In his July letter to Musk, Ukraine’s commander-in-chief, Gen. Zaluzhniy, praised the Starlink units’ “exceptional utility” and said some 4,000 terminals had been deployed by the military. However, around 500 terminals per month are destroyed in the fighting, Zaluzhniy said, before asking for 6,200 more terminals for the Ukrainian military and intelligence services and 500 per month going forward to offset the losses.

SpaceX said they responded by asking Zaluzhniy to instead take up his request to the Department of Defense.

On September 8, the senior director of government sales for SpaceX wrote the Pentagon saying the costs have gotten too high, approaching $100 million. The official asked the Department of Defense to pick up Ukraine’s new request as well as ongoing service costs, totaling $124 million for the remainder of 2022.

Those costs, according to the senior defense official, would reach almost $380 million for a full year.

SpaceX declined repeated requests for comment on both the outages and their recent request to the Pentagon. A lawyer for Musk did not reply to a request for comment. Defense Department spokesman Bob Ditchey told CNN, “The Department continues to work with industry to explore solutions for Ukraine’s armed forces as they repel Russia’s brutal and unprovoked aggression. We do not have anything else to add at this time.”

Early US support for Starlink came via the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) which according to the Washington Post spent roughly $3 million on hardware and services in Ukraine. The largest single contributor of terminals, according to the newly obtained documents, is Poland with payment for almost 9,000 individual terminals.

US Pentagon in Washington DC building looking down aerial view from above

The US has provided almost 1,700 terminals. Other contributors include the UK, NGOs and crowdfunding.

The far more expensive part, however, is the ongoing connectivity. SpaceX says it has paid for about 70% of the service provided to Ukraine and claims to have offered that highest level – $4,500 a month – to all terminals in Ukraine despite the majority only having signed on for the cheaper $500 per month service.

The terminals themselves cost $1500 and $2500 for the two models sent to Ukraine, the documents say, while consumer models on Starlink’s website are far cheaper and service in Ukraine is just $60 per month.

That’s just 1.3% of the service rate SpaceX says it needs the Pentagon to start paying.

“You could say he’s trying to get money from the government or just trying to say ‘I don’t want to be part of this anymore,’” said the person familiar with Ukraine’s requests for Starlink. Given the recent outages and Musk’s reputation for being unpredictable, “Feelings are running really high on the Ukrainian side,” this person said.

Musk is the biggest shareholder of the privately-held SpaceX. In May, SpaceX disclosed that its valuation had risen to $127 billion and it has raised $2 billion this year, CNBC reported.

Last week, Musk faced a barrage of criticism on Twitter – including from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky – after presenting in a series of tweets his peace plan to end the war. It would include giving Crimea to Russia and re-do referenda, supervised by the United Nations this time, in the four regions Russia recently illegally annexed.

It echoed comments he’d made last month at an exclusive closed-door conference in Aspen, Colorado called “The Weekend,” at which Musk told a room full of attendees that Ukraine should seek peace now because they’ve had recent victories.

“This is the time to do it. They don’t want to do it, that’s for sure. But this is the time to do it,” he said, according to a person in the room. “Everyone wants to seek peace when they’re losing but they don’t want to seek peace when they’re winning. For now.”

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DeSantis migrant relocation program planned to transport ‘100 or more’ to Delaware, Illinois, documents obtained by CNN show


Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ migrant relocation program planned to transport “approximately 100 or more” migrants to Delaware and Illinois between September 19 and October 3, according to documents obtained by CNN through a public records request.

The documents are memos sent to the Florida Department of Transportation’s state purchasing administrator from James Montgomerie, the CEO of Vertol Systems Company Inc., the company that Florida contracted to arrange transport for the migrants.

The memo explicitly states that Vertol Systems would provide the services to transport the migrants, “from Florida.”

Two “projects” were planned, according to a September 15 memo. “Project 2” would transport “up to fifty” migrants to Delaware; “project 3” would transport “up to fifty” migrants to Illinois.

Both projects were scheduled to take place between September 19 and October 3.

A second memo, dated September 16, combined the projects into one and estimated their cost as $950,000.

The memo also said the migrants could be transported to a “proximate northeastern state designated by FDOT based on extant conditions.”

CNN reached out to Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker for comment but did not immediately receive a response. A spokesperson for Delaware Gov. John Carney said he had no comment.

Vertol Systems was paid $1.6 million by the state of Florida, including a payment of $950,000.

The flights to Delaware and Illinois never happened. However, flight plans were filed with the FAA that indicated there was a second set of flights planned from San Antonio to Delaware.

A third memo, dated October 8, notes that Vertol extended the project dates to December 1, meaning that the flights could still take place.

On September 14, two planes picked up 48 migrants from San Antonio, Texas, and transported them to Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. The flights, paid for by the state of Florida, temporarily stopped to refuel in Crestview, Florida, and the Carolinas.

DeSantis has tried to sidestep criticism of the flights, saying they were necessary to stop the flow of migrants at the source before they came to Florida.

“If you can do it at the source and divert to sanctuary jurisdictions, the chance they end up in Florida is much less,” DeSantis told reporters in September.

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China’s economy is ‘in deep trouble’ as Xi heads to Communist Party congress

Hong Kong
CNN Business

When Xi Jinping came to power a decade ago, China had just overtaken Japan to become the world’s second largest economy.

It has grown at a phenomenal pace since then. With an average annual growth rate of 6.7% since 2012, China has seen one of the fastest sustained expansions for a major economy in history. In 2021, its GDP hit nearly $18 trillion, constituting 18.4% of the global economy, according to the World Bank.

China’s rapid technological advances have also made it a strategic threat to the United States and its allies. It’s steadily pushing American rivals out of long-held leadership positions in sectors ranging from 5G technology to artificial intelligence.

Until recently, some economists were predicting that China would become the world’s biggest economy by 2030, unseating the United States. Now, the situation looks much less promising.

As Xi prepares for his second decade in power, he faces mounting economic challenges, including an unhappy middle-class. If he is not able to bring the economy back on track, China faces slowing innovation and productivity, along with rising social discontent.

“For 30 years, China was on a path that gave people great hope,” said Doug Guthrie, the director of China Initiatives at Arizona State University’s Thunderbird School of Global Management, adding that the country is “in deep trouble right now.”

Hostesses stand near images showing Chinese President Xi Jinping at an exhibition highlighting Xi's years as leader, as part of the upcoming 20th Party Congress, on October 12, 2022 in Beijing, China.

While Xi is one of the most powerful leaders China and its ruling Communist Party have seen, some experts say that he can’t claim credit for the country’s astonishing progress.

“Xi’s leadership is not causal for China’s economic rise,” said Sonja Opper, a professor at Bocconi University in Italy who studies China’s economy. “Xi was able to capitalize on an ongoing entrepreneurial movement and rapid development of a private [sector] economy prior leaders had unleashed,” she added.

Rather, in recent years, Xi’s policies have caused some massive headaches in China.

Chinese President Xi Jinping waves as he arrives for a reception at the Great Hall of the People on the eve of the Chinese National Day in Beijing, China September 30, 2022.

A sweeping crackdown by Beijing on the country’s private sector, that began in late 2020, and its unwavering commitment to a zero-Covid policy, have hit the economy and job market hard.

“If anything, Xi’s leadership may have dampened some of the country’s growth dynamic,” Opper said.

More than $1 trillion has been wiped off the market value of Alibaba and Tencent — the crown jewels of China’s tech industry — over the last two years. Sales growth in the sector has slowed, and

tens of thousands of employees
have been laid off, leading to record youth unemployment.

The property sector has also been bludgeoned, hitting some of the country’s biggest home developers. The collapse in real estate — which accounts for as much as 30% of GDP — has triggered widespread and rare dissent among the middle class.

Thousands of angry homebuyers refused to pay their mortgages on stalled projects, fueling fears of systemic financial risks and forcing authorities to pressure banks and developers to defuse the unrest. That wasn’t the only demonstration of discontent this year.

In July, Chinese authorities violently dispersed a peaceful protest by hundreds of depositors, who were demanding their life savings back from rural banks that had frozen millions of dollars worth of deposits. The banking scandal not only threatened the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of customers but also highlighted the deteriorating financial health of China’s smaller banks.

“Many middle-class people are disappointed in the recent economic performance and disillusioned with Xi’s rule,” said David Dollar, a senior fellow in the John L. Thornton China Center at the Brookings Institution.

According to analysts, the vulnerabilities in the financial system are a result of the country’s unfettered debt-fuelled expansion in the previous decade, and the model needs to change.

“China’s growth during Xi’s decade in power is attributable mainly to the general economic approach adopted by his predecessors, which focused on rapid expansion through investment, manufacturing, and trade,” said Neil Thomas, a senior analyst for China and Northeast Asia at Eurasia Group.

“But this model had reached a point of significantly diminishing returns and was increasing economic inequality, financial debt, and environmental damage,” he said.

While Xi is trying to change that model, he is not going about it the right way, experts said, and is risking the future of China’s businesses with tighter state controls.

The 69-year old leader launched his crackdown to rein in the “disorderly” private businesses that were growing too powerful. He also wants to redistribute wealth in the society, under his “common prosperity” goal.

Xi hopes for a “new normal,” where consumption and services become more important drivers of expansion than investments and exports.

But, so far, these measures have pushed the Chinese economy into one of its worst economic crises in four decades.

Shoppers walk through Taikoo Li Village Mall in Sanlitun in Beijing, China, on Monday, May 30, 2022.

The International Monetary Fund recently cut its forecast for China’s growth to 3.2% this year, representing a sharp slowdown from 8.1% in 2021. That would be the country’s second lowest growth rate in 46 years, better only than 2020 when the initial coronavirus outbreak pummeled the economy.

Under Xi, China has not only become more insular, but has also seen the fraying of US-China relations. His refusal to condemn Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, and China’s recent aggression towards Taiwan, could alienate the country even further from Washington and its allies.

Analysts say the current problems don’t yet pose a major threat to Xi’s rule. He is expected to secure an unprecedented third term in power at the Communist Party Congress that begins on Sunday. Priorities presented at the congress will also set China’s trajectory for the next five years or even longer.

“It would likely take an economic catastrophe on the scale of the Great Depression to create levels of social discontent and popular protest that might pose a threat to Communist Party rule,” said Thomas from Eurasia Group.

“Moreover, growth is not the only source of legitimacy and support for the Communist Party, and Xi has increasingly burnished the Communist Party’s nationalist credentials to appeal to patriotism as well as pocketbooks,” he added.

But to get China back to high growth and innovation, Xi may have to bring back market-oriented reforms.

“If he was smart, he would liberalize things quickly in his third term,” said Guthrie.

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‘Yellowstone’ cast members to saddle up for special Ride to the Polls


Two “Yellowstone” cast members are teaming up with other celebrities for a good cause on horseback.

Piper Perabo and Mo Brings Plenty will join Loren Anthony (“Dexter: New Blood”), Ryan Begay (“Breaking Bad”) and Nicole Kang (“Batwoman”) will saddle up to increase voter awareness as part of a Ride to the Polls effort led by the organizations Harness and Protect the Sacred.

The Solidarity Trail Ride will take place October 15 in Monument Valley, Arizona.

Mo Brings Plenty in

“It is critical in our country that we shift the national narrative to center the rights and voices of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color communities,” America Ferrera, who with Ryan Piers Williams and Wilmer Valderrama founded Harness, told CNN in an email interview. “We all need to do what we can to increase turnout of these voters, especially those who live in rural and disenfranchised communities. With many systems of our democracy under attack, Harness is committed to help protect the right to vote for all Americans and do so using the strengths we know we have through storytelling and culturally competent on-the-ground organizing.”

The event is an expansion of an effort started by Allie Young, the organizer of Ride to the Polls and founder of Protect the Sacred.

Two years ago, Young rallied with leaders in the Navajo Nation for a 20-mile horseback ride to lead Diné voters polling locations, an ode to their ancestors who rode for hours to cast their votes.

“I launched Ride to the Polls in 2020, hoping to reach young people in my community who weren’t motivated to vote for good reason,” she told CNN. “I don’t think it’s just the Native community that feels this way. I think BIPOC communities, disenfranchised communities, across the country feel like they’re not sure what to trust anymore. I think there’s a lot of people who are feeling really fatigued by general get out the vote type of messaging.”

Citizens of Navajo Nation riding to the polls to cast their ballots.

The feedback she got in 2020, Young said, reflected a sentiment of general disappointment in “a system that was not designed for us.”

“And I (was) like, ‘I’m there with you.’ But when we participate, our vote is powerful,” she said.

Young and Harness’s drive to do more Ride to the Polls events was done with that in mind.

“When our ancestors – whether it’s in the Indigenous community, the Black community, the Latinx community – we’ve all come from these histories where our ancestors had to fight for our existence today,” Young said. “That’s the message I want to spread as we expand – our power and our resiliency. When we come together as communities and we stand up how powerful we actually are.”

Another event leading up to midterm elections will take place in San Antonio and be called Quince to the Polls. On October 29, young girls celebrating their Quinceañeras will use the celebration as a chance to encourage their families and communities to participate in early voting and on voting day. A Skate to the Polls event was held back in August.

Saturday’s event in Arizona will culminate at the Kayenta Rodeo Grounds, where there will be a panel discussion on voting as well as information about polling locations, food and music.

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Bird strike sends United Airlines flight back to Chicago

(CNN) — A bird strike shortly after takeoff sent a United Airlines flight back to Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport on Friday, the airline said.

Flight 1930, on a Boeing 737-900, was bound for Miami International Airport.

“The aircraft landed safely and passengers deplaned at the gate,” United Airlines said in a statement. The airline didn’t provide details of any potential damage to the plane.

“I knew something was wrong because there was fire below the wing that kept coming out in spurts, and it felt like the plane was kind of jerking,” Fiock told CNN.

“We could hear the pops of the engine trying to start and see the fire on our side since we were right by the wing. The lights kept flickering, too, when it would pop. I was just hoping we would be able to land safely!”

Fiock said she didn’t realize a bird strike had caused the problem until after the plane landed.

“The pilots did a great job getting us back safely, and I’m so grateful to them and the crew,” she said.

Flight tracking site FlightAware shows that Flight 1930 took off at 10:47 a.m. local time and returned to O’Hare 42 minutes later.

A new aircraft was assigned to the flight, the airline said, and it departed early Friday afternoon.

Engines are the most frequently damaged component of civil aircraft in the US, according to the FAA, accounting for about a quarter of all damaged aircraft components.

The number of wildlife strikes with aircraft is on the rise, the FAA says on its wildlife site.

Strikes have increased steadily from about 1,800 in 1990 to 16,000 in 2018, the FAA website says.

“Expanding wildlife populations, increases in number of aircraft movements, a trend toward faster and quieter aircraft, and outreach to the aviation community all have contributed to the observed increase in reported wildlife strikes,” the FAA site says.

Top image: A United Airlines aircraft at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport in February. (Jose M. Osorio/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images/File)

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Herschel Walker: Allies want more ‘Trumpian response’ to abortion allegation


Republican allies want Georgia Senate hopeful Herschel Walker to more forcefully deny an allegation that surfaced this week that he once paid for a woman’s abortion.

Some Walker supporters said they want the GOP nominee, who is challenging Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock in one of the most competitive races of the 2022 midterms, to dial up his efforts to refute the allegations, which were first published by The Daily Beast on Monday. The initial story attributed the abortion claim to an unidentified woman before adding in a separate report Wednesday that she was the mother of one of Walker’s four children. The Daily Beast also published photographs of a “get well” card the woman alleged Walker had sent following the procedure and referenced a bank deposit receipt she provided to the outlet that contained an image of a $700 personal check Walker allegedly sent her to pay for the abortion.

CNN has not been able to independently verify the allegation.

Conversations with several Republican operatives and sources close to Walker paint a picture of a campaign whose senior officials were caught flat-footed and which has struggled to mount an organized response to the allegations from The Daily Beast and from Walker’s son Christian, who has accused him of lying about the abortion claim. This is despite rumors circulating for months that these sorts of accusations could come to light and warnings from outside allies to prepare for that possibility.

“It’s not so much we are concerned about the allegations themselves, it’s mostly the response,” said a person close to the Walker campaign who wanted a more “Trumpian response” from the candidate.

A second person close to the campaign said that if Walker is “going to say [the abortion allegation] is not true, he needs to do so loudly and as much as possible.”

Walker has repeatedly dismissed the allegations as false and a “flat-out-lie,’ including in an interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt on Thursday: “I know this is untrue. … I know nothing about any woman having an abortion.”

“Had that happened, I would have said it, because it’s nothing to be ashamed of,” he later added. Asked about that comment during a campaign stop Thursday afternoon, Walker told reporters he was referring to “something totally different” that had “nothing to do” with the abortion claim.

One Republican strategist with ties to the Walker campaign said the candidate should follow through on his threat to sue The Daily Beast for defamation “to put weight behind his denial.” In his first statement responding to the allegation on Monday, Walker said he was “planning to sue the Daily Beast for this defamatory lie” by Tuesday morning, but no legal actions have been taken yet.

“If they don’t want to go down that road in the middle of a campaign, they should offer up something else,” this person said.

Publicly, the Walker campaign has touted a fundraising bonanza in the wake of the allegations. In a press release Wednesday, Walker campaign manager Scott Paradise said the campaign raised more than $12 million last quarter amid “a gutter campaign focused on lies and personal attacks” by Warnock. Privately, the campaign has told allies it has evidence to disprove the abortion allegation and is eyeing a high-profile debate between Walker and Warnock next Friday as an ideal time to release it. With control of the evenly divided Senate on the line, their race in a state President Joe Biden narrowly carried in 2020 is one of the most closely watched of the year.

“I can’t imagine any sane person wouldn’t put that information out,” said a source close to the Walker campaign.

Walker did not mention having evidence to disprove the claim in an appearance on “Fox & Friends” on Wednesday or in his interview with Hewitt on Thursday, saying only that he does not know the identity of the woman making the allegation and does not recognize the signature that allegedly appeared on the get-well card as his own.

“I never just put an H on anything. I never have. It’s sort of like everyone is anonymous or everyone is leaking. And they want you to confess to something you have no clue about,” Walker told Fox News.

Randy Evans, a former Trump ambassador to Luxembourg who is close to Walker’s campaign, said the GOP nominee should resist the temptation to devote too much time focused on rebutting the allegation against him, preferring that he focus on top-of-mind issues for Georgia voters such as crime and inflation.

“Every minute Walker is talking about this story, which he’s denied, he is doing what Warnock wants him to do. And every minute that Warnock is talking about Biden, he is doing what Walker would want him to do,” Evans said in a phone interview, adding that “the best thing [Walker] could do is the very second something untrue came out, promptly deny it and move on.”

“And I think it’s clear that is what he did,” said Evans, who said he continues to support Walker.

Walker did not acknowledge the allegation in a new 30-second spot released by his campaign on Wednesday, instead talking about his “real battle with mental health” and his Christian faith.

One Republican strategist with ties to Walker’s campaign, who requested anonymity to speak about the matter, said it was surprising to see the campaign caught off guard by the abortion claim when this source and others said it had been circulating for months in Georgia GOP circles.

“Frankly, I’m surprised it took this long” to publicly surface, this person said. “I heard about this way back in May, but it was just hearsay, along with a bunch of other stuff that was going around at the time.”

In a tweet Tuesday evening, Paradise, Walker’s campaign manager, dismissed a Politico story alleging that the GOP nominee’s team was aware months ago of the abortion allegation as “absolute garbage.” The story said the allegation “was brought to the attention of those working on Walker’s behalf” before he launched his Senate campaign.

But one of the sources close to the Walker campaign told CNN on Wednesday that they had personally warned senior Walker aides to “be ready” for the allegation to make its way into the media. While this person said they do not believe the allegation to be true, they recalled bringing it up as a note of caution, believing the general election would take an ugly turn given Georgia’s critical role in November to determining control of the Senate.

“I heard that rumor, and early on I said to somebody, maybe Taylor [Crowe] or Stefan Passantino, the campaign’s general counsel, ‘You guys should be ready for this,’” this person said, recalling that Walker’s aides said they would be. Crowe is the campaign’s political director.

Passantino declined to comment on the matter, while Crowe did not respond to multiple requests for comment. In a Wednesday phone call with CNN, Paradise declined to say whether he was made aware of the abortion allegation prior to the Daily Beast story and asked for questions to be emailed to him.

After this story published, Paradise responded with a statement saying, “This is the second time this week you’ve written a lie based on bad anonymous sources. Categorically false.”

The allegation was so widely known in Georgia Republican circles that Erick Erickson, a Georgia-based conservative radio host, said two of Walker’s primary opponents tried to get him to discuss it on his program before Walker became the GOP nominee for Senate.

“I had every single Republican on my show with me during the [Senate] primary, and two of them mentioned it as an unsourced rumor that had surfaced in their opposition files,” Erickson said. “None of them had any details to prove it, but they were pushing me to talk about it on air.”

“Everyone knew it,” Erickson said, adding that it was “all just noise in the primary” and that Republican voters are unlikely to back away from Walker because they are inherently “suspicious of hit jobs” following the intense allegations of sexual assault that consumed the Senate confirmation hearings for now-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Former President Donald Trump also faced a slew of sexual misconduct allegations during and after his 2016 presidential bid – ignoring some and denying others at the time they surfaced. A person close to the former President said he was unaware of the abortion allegation against Walker until it surfaced earlier this week, and had planned to speak with the Republican Senate hopeful on Tuesday. Trump issued a statement Tuesday evening saying Walker had “properly denied” the allegation and encouraging GOP voters to turn out and support him next month.

Republicans have largely credited Trump for convincing Walker, a longtime friend of his, to launch a Senate bid earlier this year, even though his past controversies gave some top GOP election officials pause. Walker published a book in 2008 detailing his battle with dissociative identity disorder, a mental illness that he has said sometimes led to violent episodes in adulthood.

Further complicating Walker’s strategy as he navigates the abortion allegation has been his son Christian’s online criticism of him, said people close to his campaign.

“What I thought was very notable was that nobody had a freakout moment because of the Daily Beast story,” said Erickson, noting that what sent most Republicans spiraling this week was the criticism Christian Walker aimed at his father in a series of social media postings.

Following publication of the Daily Beast story, Christian Walker accused his father of lying and misleading the public about allegations that have been made against him and about his family’s support for his run for office.

“Every family member of Herschel Walker asked him not to run for office, because we all knew (some of) his past. … He decided to give us the middle finger and air out all his dirty laundry in public while simultaneously lying about it,” Walker’s son tweeted Monday.

Sources familiar with the matter said Walker had reassured Republicans during the primary that his family was fully behind his campaign, including his ex-wife Cindy Grossman and son Christian, and that they would stand by him if any baggage came out. But one of the sources close to the Walker campaign said that his family members “haven’t been willing to campaign for him” and that Walker has previously been reluctant to ask.

Grossman has previously alleged that Walker “held a gun to my temple and said he was going to blow my brains out” during a violent episode while they were married. Her claim, which occurred during an interview with ABC News around the time his autobiography was released, has been featured in a recent ad by the anti-Walker Republican Accountability PAC as well as in ads launched by Georgia Honor PAC, a group with ties to a Senate Democratic super PAC.

On Thursday, Walker told Hewitt he hasn’t “sat down with Christian since he started believing, I think … that I had other kids.”

“Then this came out and that’s why I say I love him. I love Christian. I love him with all my heart,” Walker said.

“Christian obviously makes things more complicated than some of the previous stories,” a senior Republican official said. “It all depends on how his comments get used and whether he says more? Does he do interviews? Cut ads? It’s unknowns, and unknowns are always challenging.”

This story has been updated with additional information.

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Biden offers stark ‘Armageddon’ warning on the dangers of Putin’s nuclear threats


President Joe Biden on Thursday delivered a stark warning about the dangers behind Russian President Vladimir Putin’s nuclear threats as Moscow continues to face military setbacks in Ukraine.

“First time since the Cuban missile crisis, we have a direct threat of the use (of a) nuclear weapon if in fact things continue down the path they are going,” Biden warned during remarks at a Democratic fundraiser in New York where he was introduced by James Murdoch, the youngest son of media mogul Rupert Murdoch, according to the pool report.

He added: “I don’t think there’s any such thing as the ability to easily (use) a tactical nuclear weapon and not end up with Armageddon.”

It’s striking for the President to speak so candidly and invoke Armageddon, particularly at a fundraiser, while his aides from the National Security Council to the State Department to the Pentagon have spoken in much more measured terms, saying they take the threats seriously but don’t see movement on them from the Kremlin.

“I’m trying to figure out what is Putin’s off ramp?” Biden said during the event, “Where does he find a way out? Where does he find himself in a position that he does not not only lose face but lose significant power within Russia?”

His comments come as the US considers how to respond to a range of potential scenarios, including fears that Russians could use tactical nuclear weapons, according to three sources briefed on the latest intelligence and previously reported by CNN.

Ex-US defense secretary says in unlikely event that Putin resorts to nukes, he could use this weapon

Officials have cautioned as recently as Thursday that the US has not detected preparations for a nuclear strike. However, experts view them as potential options the US must prepare for as Russia’s invasion falters and as Moscow annexes more Ukrainian territory.

“This nuclear saber rattling is reckless and irresponsible,” Pentagon spokesperson Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said earlier Thursday. “As I’ve mentioned before, at this stage, we do not have any information to cause us to change our strategic deterrence posture, and we don’t assess that President Putin has made a decision to use nuclear weapons at this time.”

Following Biden’s remarks, officials emphasized to CNN Thursday night that they had not seen any changes to Russia’s nuclear stance.

A US official said that despite Biden’s warning that the world is the closest it has been to a nuclear crisis since the 1960s, they have not seen a change to Russia’s nuclear posture as of now. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre’s Tuesday statement that there has been no indication of a change in Russia’s posture and therefore no change in the US posture still stands, the official said.

A senior US government official expressed surprise at the President’s remarks, saying there were no obvious signs of an escalating threat from Russia.

While there is no question Russia’s nuclear posture is being taken seriously, this official said the President’s language at a fundraiser tonight caught other officials across the government off guard.

“Nothing was detected today that reflected an escalation,” the official said, who went on to defend Biden’s remarks because of the ongoing gravity of the matter.

At the fundraiser, Biden was speaking clearly about the threat officials believe Russia poses, a person familiar with his thinking told CNN.

Still, US officials have taken somber note of the Russian President’s repeated public threats to use nuclear weapons. In a televised address late last month, Putin said, “If the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, we will without doubt use all available means to protect Russia and our people. This is not a bluff.”

Last Friday, at a ceremony in which he announced the illegal annexation of four Ukrainian regions, Putin said Russia would use “all available means” to defend the areas, adding that the US had “created a precedent” for nuclear attacks in the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in World War II.

“We’ve got a guy I know fairly well,” Biden said of Putin Thursday. “He’s not joking when he talks about potential use of tactical nuclear weapons or biological or chemical weapons because his military is, you might say, significantly under-performing.”

This story has been updated with additional information.

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